Tag Archives: religion

Which Door?

Since I was a young boy, I have always questioned my faith.  I was reared Roman Catholic, playing the organ and singing in the choir, and devoutly serving as an altar boy.  I always loved my Catholicism; however, I also wondered what else was out there.  I innately knew there were many doors available, and that others chose some of the myriad doors.  This awareness was enhanced by my father who was a former Catholic and thereafter an agnostic.  My challenge is that I am finding it increasingly difficult to hear people speak of their traditions as exclusively correct, not just for them, but for others as well.

In the 1960s, my mother taught me that other religions were not the right ones for us.  How she knew that, I never fully understood until I was older and realized that this was what the church taught us to believe.  Even as I became an adult and realized that there was no room for me as I was, in my fullness as a whole human being, I never stopped loving the church; I just could not go back. Today, we are told that as gay people, we can participate in the church, but that we must confess our sins and promise to abstain from the activities with those we love specified by the church. Certainly, that is not consistent with what I know of God, so I had to move forward in my search.

Christianity is the predominate overarching faith in the United States.  That is not true in other regions such as Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Near East.  They believe in other traditions that, to them, are just as valid as Christianity is to the majority of Americans.  In fact, there are more people worldwide who believe in their various Eastern and folk religions than believe in Judaism, the founding tradition of the Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam, the largest groups of faith on the planet [1].  Some researchers indicate that Islam has overtaken Catholicism as the number one specific religion in the world [2].

I have meandered my way through Eastern religions, New Age philosophies, ancient religions, native traditions, and other belief systems.  I have read, discussed, meditated, and prayed my way to this moment.  All I know for certain is that there is a Greater Spirit, one that has many, many names. This spirit connects us all in love and unity.  I believe that sin and hell do not exist.  I believe that we live in the constant light of God.  I believe our fears cause us to choose to turn our backs on the light; to ignore that radiance eternally emanating through the door before, during, and after this human existence.  This is why we sometimes perceive evil and live in the shadows.  I believe that all paths lead to God, because God has given us every opportunity to remember who we truly are in unity with the Universe. We learn by example and we learn by contrast.  I believe we have many teachers and that all our teachers are sent from God, even the ones that scare us the most.  Perhaps, the ones that scare us or bring up anger in us are our best teachers, because like pain from an injury, they call us to focus on where our fears exist.

These beliefs are mine and mine alone.  I do not expect anyone else, let alone everyone else, to believe what I believe.  If others condemn me for my faith, they can contemplate why they do so. That is not my job.  If others feel joy or growth through my awareness of my faith, all the better.  I have accepted that I will always question the structure of my faith, but I suspect that my faith itself will be everlasting.

Perhaps in my questioning, I have walked through the door that was meant for me, the door of a seeker of knowledge and wisdom.  I believe everyone has a job to do on this planet, and one of my jobs is to ask questions out loud.  I can’t possibly have the answers for anyone else, but that is fine with me because I am not walking another person’s path.  I can only find my peace, my truth, and my unity with others in my own way, celebrating others’ light along the way.  To me, that is consistent with my faith and the God I believe in.

So, I offer my little prayer of thanksgiving to those who have been my teachers, friends and challengers alike, for they have given me opportunities to find happiness.  I am grateful to not tolerate, but celebrate the paths of my brothers- and sisters-in-light.  I continue to welcome new thought, new wisdom into my life, brought by generous souls, whether they are aware of the gifts they bring or not.  I remain aware that I still have an inconceivably long journey ahead of me to understand God. These are the gifts I receive from God for which I am so very thankful.  For those who insist on others believing as they do, I ask you this: How did you choose your door?


[1] Wikipedia (2011) “Major Religious Groups” Wikipedia. Retrieved July 15, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_religious_groups

[2] Rizzo, Allesandra (2008, March 31) “Muslims ‘overtake’ Catholics, become world’s largest religion.” National Geographic. Retrieved July 15, 2011 from  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080331-AP-islam-largest.html

Sacred Holidays

The rituals of religions across the world are deemed to be sacred by those who practice them.  These acts of holiness are believed to bring us closer to our Divine Creator.  During this time of year, the winter months, we find celebrations of many types being shared by families and friends of various traditions.  One must wonder, however, by focusing on these particular actions, have we lost something greater in our good intentions?

In every tradition, there are tenets that are squirreled away in our holy books and revered teachings that are expounded on the pulpit, but are forgotten by many in our day-to-day lives, even during the holiday season. 

The following are examples of teachings of tolerance, patience, and acceptance in various traditions. 

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31  

Some refer to this as the Golden Rule by which, if we live within its guidance, we will find true happiness.  This Christian teaching from the Holy Bible, has grown beyond those of this general belief system, to be applied by many, even those who identify themselves as agnostic or atheist, as a great rule of thumb by which to live.   Remembering another’s needs for dignity, truth, love, and charity, seems to invite the best in us to shine toward our brothers and sisters.  It is not just this biblical entry, however, that inspires us to remember this thought.

In one of the earliest revelations in Makkah, the Holy Islamic Prophet, Mohammed, revealed,

“In the name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful.

1.  By the time!

2. Surely man is in loss,

3. Except those who believe and do good, and exhort one another to Truth, and exhort one another to patience.”  – Qu’ran 103:1-3

This message asks us to have faith in God, speak of that faith, be generous in our willingness to understand those around us.  What a powerful message for anyone who happens to believe in anything whatsoever.

Through the Lord’s messenger, Mormon, as he communicates to his son, Moroni, the Saints from the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are advised to prepare the way for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ with this quote found in the Book of Mormon:

“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against…those… that turn aside the stranger… saith the Lord of Hosts.”  3 Nephi 24:5

When one turns another away in their time of need, clearly God is saying that judgment will be met against them.  When we see another person’s hand longing for comfort, fraternity, or assistance, we are called upon to see them and act lovingly. 

In the Tanakh, the Jewish Book of Mosaic law, we read,

 “27 Do not withhold good from one who deserves it,

When you have the power to do it [for him]. 

28 Do not say to your fellow, “Come back again;

I’ll give it to you tomorrow,” when you have it with you.

29 Do not devise harm against your fellow

Who lives trustfully with you.

30 Do not quarrel with a man for no cause,

When he has done you no harm.” – Proverbs 3:27-30.

Again, we are faced with how we approach our brothers and sisters with a charitable heart.  We are asked to find peace and generosity to those who have treated us accordingly.  

While Buddhism has a collection of book on which it is based called the Dhamma, Buddha himself taugh orally, as did Jesus Christ.  Buddhist philosophies and foci on their essence of truth is well reflected in the fourth Noble Truth, which is the path leading to Nirvana. This is the Buddha’s Middle Path, which is generally referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path because of its eight components:

Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration, Right Thought and Right Understanding (which includes the realization of the Four Noble Truths).  

In attaining these eight “right” conditions, one finds ultimate peace within and that peace is reflected without, affecting all those around him or her.

The Upanishads, the scriptures of the Hindu tradition of Vedanta, show us that when we recognize that we and our brothers are one in the atman, or self, we will see no difference in one another.  When we see that there is no separation between two parts of the greater spirit, any good we do for others, we also do for ourselves, as well. 

14. “For where there is duality, one smells another, one sees another, one hears another, one speaks to another, one thinks of another, one knows another. But where everything in one has become self, how can one smell—and whom? How can one see—and whom? How can one hear—and whom? How can one speak—and to whom? How can one think—and of whom? How can one know—and whom? How can one know that by which one knows all this? How can one know the knower?” – Brhadaranyaka Upanishad: The Great Forest Teaching: Book 2 Part II 11.4:14

The last eight words in the Rede of Wicca, the Earth-based religion, we find the following:

“Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfil: An It Harme None, Do As Ye Will.

“And, it harm none.”  It is a complete statement that we can bring harm to not one person in our actions.  When we are sure we will not injure anyone else, then we are free to act as we choose. 

Every tradition has a variation on the theme of unity, recognition of others as connected to us, and a call for peace, caring, and understanding. 

One must ask the following question, “How is it possible that when from every corner of the globe we are offered the same message, we still continue to ignore, maim, and kill our brothers and sisters for our own selfish reasons?”

Divine Creator has spoken through every language to say the same thing over and over again.  Nature has shown us that when one species annihilates another species, the destroyers, too, die from lack of food, thereby teaching us once again that we must care for those around us. 

We are all diminished by selfishness and forgetfulness of others.  We are all enriched by reaching out to one another in love, compassion, understanding, and peace.  Even those who watch these acts of kindness and cruelty are impacted by what they see. 

So, as we celebrate our sacred winter holidays and as we approach 2010, let us call to mind how many ways we can encourage joy for others, radiate peace toward others, build compassion in others, and share these qualities from within ourselves with others. 

Let us remember one another in love, peace, and harmony.

Some Perspective on the DOJ and DADT and DOMA

If Nathan Lane was President of these here United States of America (with Harvey Fierstein as Vice President, and Hedda Lettuce as U.S. Attorney General), his administration would have been required to support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) as it was for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in response to a court battle.  It is the law that the Department of Justice must always file friends of the court/amicus briefs that support current law.  We should not be getting upset about this amicus brief.  It’s a non-issue.

What should have gone along with this brief, however, is a statement from the President indicating his focus on getting a quick legislative repeal of DOMA.  His speech at the National Equality March did give us more hope; however,that’s how this should have been handled in the first place. 

It’s frustrating to realize that we are having issues regarding civil rights in our third century of existence as a country; we, whose ancestors left England, and many other countries for that matter, for freedom. 

hillbillyI remember thinking as a teacher about students who took a long, long time to get the concepts I was putting forth, “Bless their pointed little heads.” 

Sometimes, that’s the way I feel about us as a nation.

“Bless our pointed little heads.”

My point is, let’s stay focused on our next move and not get bogged down in those things we cannot change.

Stay focused, people!

I Love the United States of America

Our Fourth of July

Our Fourth of July

It sounds so corny when I say it out loud, quite honestly.  “I love the United States of America.”  The reflection in the mirror I half-expect to see as I walk past as I speak these words is my rotund countenance draped in stars and stripes.  That’s how silly it sounds to me to say it… at first.

Then, as I mull the phrase over in my head, I contemplate a few things that soften my attitude about this compilation of words.

First, I think about my Dad.  (I always capitalize the word, “Dad,” when I refer to my father, whether it’s grammatically correct or not).  My father fought in World War II.  He was a decorated Pharmacist Mate.  He served in both the Mediterranean and Asian theaters.   He was a hero.  Although he rarely spoke about his time in the Navy, I was always in awe that he fought the enemy and through his efforts, helped win the war.  He fought for the freedoms that I have today.  He, along with all the men and women who so valiantly served our country over the last two hundred-plus years, made a difference to us.  I never forget that.  I suppose that’s why, when I hear the National Anthem, I still get choked up.  It happens every single time.

Second, I wonder where else on Earth I could walk down the street with the fearlessness I do.  As a gay man, a Latino man, an older man, a man of lower-moderate socio-economic status, I am greeted warmly, loved openly, and respected for who I am, with all the diversity I embody.  There are laws that protect me.  I am, relatively speaking, safe.

Third, I can write to the President of the United States of America and say exactly what is on my mind.  Because I have no desire to threaten anyone, I’m secure in the knowledge that my words count just as much as anyone else’s.  It’s a sweet knowledge I carry inside my heart about my place here in the good ole U.S. of A.

I get angry, sometimes, at our legislators and our judges.  I am often frustrated by our media services.  The cost of things is abominable and the challenges to acquire health care for many is untenable.  “Skinny people are too thin.  Fat people are too fat.”  Everyone has an opinion about everything.

We are, thankfully, able to express our opinions as freely as we belch.  Unfortunately, some of our opinions are worth about the same thing.  At least, we are able to send our thoughts out as easily as we throw a frisbee at a Fourth of July picnic. 

We have had presidents, from Washington to Obama, that are nearly as diverse in thought and history as those of us in our neighborhoods.  There were builders, deceivers, heroes and scoundrals, activitists and do-nothings.  They were Americans. 

Today, on this Fourth of July, 2009, I am not a hyphenate-American.  I am simply, joyfully, and proudly an American.

So, as corny as it may sound, I will reiterate my feeling that I love the United States of America.   God (or whomever you choose to believe in, if anyone) bless America!

The birth of the United States of America flag

The birth of the flag of the United States of America

When They Say It’s Almost Time…

Every so often, a person will say, “Well, I think it’s almost time for me to go.”

They say it with such introspection, I’m not certain if they are talking to me or if their internal monologue simply escaped accidentally. 

When my mother was preparing to make her departure, even before her cancer was diagnosed, she came to visit me at the home my husband and I share.  She had been here many times before and had seen the “Nana Room” we created just for her.  The single bed was surrounded by photographs of her family, some of which were nearly one hundred-years old.  I put her suitcase on the floor and watched my mother sit on the bed.  She looked around the room and looked almost lost.  I sat next to her and took her hand.  She began to cry.

I asked, “Mom, what’s the matter?” 

“Look at my family,” she whispered through her tears.  I began to cry with her.  As I scanned the room, as with new eyes, I realized she was not seeing the photographic faces I saw; she was seeing her mother and her father.  She was seeing her uncles and aunts.  She was seeing her long deceased cousins.  The veil was shorn and there was nothing I could do about it.

I said, “We have a wonderful family, Mom.  We’re very lucky.” 

Mom composed herself a little and said she was just tired and needed to rest.  As she laid on the bed that she said was one of the most comfortable on which she had ever slept, I closed the light and let her rest. 

I went into the living room and I said to  my husband, “I think Mama’s not going to be here much longer.”  

nde_295192702_stdI knew she was telling this room, and me, good-bye.  I knew she was giving me a heads up that the end was approaching and that she would be with her family very soon.  My mother and I were very, very close.

That following September, Mom called me to tell me that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.   I took a leave of absence from the school where I was teaching and immediately moved to Dunsmuir to take care of her.  On November 23, 2005, Mama died.

That night, the day before Thanksgiving, some friends of ours brought over Thanksgiving dinner for us to share.  As we sat at the table, my brother, who had been battling alcoholism for thirty years, said that anytime he was supposed to go, he was ready.  He said that living the life he had, with homelessness, transience and alcohol, was underrated by most people.  He liked his life and although he knew he wouldn’t live as long as I would, he was going to live according to his wishes nonetheless.

He died March 9, 2006, three months and two weeks after my mother died, from a pulmonary embolism after thawing out from frostbite.

Three months later, in June 2006, our seventeen-year-old mega-chihuahua, Bootsy, (yes, after the amazing bassist, Bootsy Collins), decided he was going for a run.  He was nearly 20 pounds overweight from congestive heart failure, but he wasn’t going to be stopped.  He got away from my daughter in a mad rush and went running.  Bootsy had always been a dog of the streets, with the scars to prove it.  He loved his life. 

In later years, however, he had slowed way down as he was approaching his twilight years.  This night was different.  As a moderately healthy forty-seven-year-old man, I could not catch this old, fat, unhealthy dog.  He was going to run and there was nothing I could do about it.  He was trying to let go and he wasn’t going to allow anyone, even my husband who had shared a life with him for seventeen years, stop him.  He was going to go out in a blaze of glory.

By the time I got him home, with the help of young strangers at the gas station who helped wrangle him, he was exhausted.

It wasn’t too long after that he sauntered into our bedroom to lie down, barely able to breathe, coughing that watery cough of terminal lung congestion.   My husband slept on the floor with him that night.  When I got up the next morning, as was his custom, he began following me to the kitchen for his meal.  He never made it.  He listed to the right, fell on the shiny hardwood floor in the bathroom and after a couple of coughs, our beloved Bootsy died.

His message was clear and he was, sadly, correct.

The next year, in May 2007, my former mother-in-law, the woman to whom I always addressed as “Mother-in-law Dearest,” called to tell me that after years of palliative therapy, her emphysema and lung cancer was getting the best of her.  She had said this before, but this call was different.  Although I had been separated and divorced from her daughter for twenty-two years, we remained close. 

As she went into the hospital, she asked me to come pray with her.  Of course, I did. 

When I arrived, she asked me how someone knows if they’re ready to go?  I responded that there is an internal sense of closure that cannot be denied.  I said that if and when she was ready and she allowed the natural process to happen, she would go.

She closed her eyes, took my hand, and those of us in the room, three of her daughters, and my two daughters/her granddaughters, prayed together.  After awhile, the room went silent. 

After five minutes of heavy silence, she opened her eyes and said, “I’m still here?” 

We all laughed.  I left the room after kissing the woman who had been part of my family for thirty-five years and wishing her a wonderful journey home.  I told her that I would miss her terribly.

For the first time in all those years, she said, “I love you, son.” 

“I love you, too, Mother-in-law Dearest.”

The next morning, my daughter called to tell me that she had died with only my daughters present.

Each one of these individuals gave me a message that I chose to hear… thankfully.  They know better than I when their time is coming.  The children with cancer with whom I used to work many years ago taught me that lesson best.  They always, always knew when they were about to go.  It was just up to us to see the signs and listen to the message. 

With two of my aunts, recently, they both told me they were leaving in their own ways.  I heard them and told my husband.  Within the month, they were gone.

I just returned from my current mother-in-law’s house.  She had a message for me.  

Laden Sky at Dusk

Laden Sky at Dusk

McMahon, Fawcett and Jackson

Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon

In the last few days, we have lost three distinctly different personalities.  I was watching CNN and there was a blog entry read that talked about Ed McMahon and his distinguished service as a colonel in the military.  This person referenced Farrah Fawcett’s valiant struggle against cancer and her work against domestic violence.  The individual then referred to Michael Jackson’s criminal trials for child molestation and his drug use.

It breaks my heart that at this point in our history, we are still looking at others with such a jaded eye.  The truth is Ed McMahon was in debt up to his eyes.  Farrah Fawcett began her career as simply a pretty face.  Michael Jackson was worked far beyond any reasonable level by his own parents during his entire childhood. 

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett

The point is that every single person on this great big planet has a story and that story is a complete one.  It has really beautiful parts to it and it has hideously ugly parts to it, as well.  Such is the nature of life.  For those who feel that they have not been touched by severe tragedy or extreme joy, allow me to express my deepest sympathy to you because it is most likely because you have chosen to live a life of fear, keeping yourself safe from every possible danger or sadness.   That’s not living.  That’s existing.

Without risk, there is no glory.  (I wish I could find who said that first).  Of course, I’m not talking about fame when I use the word, “glory.”   I’m talking about that feeling of basking in one’s ultimate success.  Without scars, there is no character.  Without pain, there is no healing.  Without horror, there is no joy.  Life, as we know it, is full of polarity.  It’s the nature of the beast.

Ed McMahon defended our country as a valiant and honorable soldier.  Farrah Fawcett struggled against misogyny and violence, bringing at least one wonderful movie to light in that effort.  Michael Jackson changed the face of pop music from the time he was ten years old.  Each of these actions has value and will find longevity. 

Their agonies are not ones we will ever understand because we have not walked in their shoes.  So, what they offered us personally was joy, creativity, and abundance.  I suggest we simply say, “Thank you, Ed.  Thank you, Farrah.  Thank you, Michael.”

There have only been two celebrity deaths that affected me so personally that I wept.  One was when George Burns died.  I respected his power and his humor and I felt he represented

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

the best of comedy and sophistication in the art form.  The second was Katherine Hepburn.  Again, she was a pinnacle of class, sophistication, directness and artistry.  Their passing was deeply moving to me because with them went a level of talent that we will rarely see again. 

So, let’s say a fond farewell to our lost comrades-in-art With all our love and gratitudeand pray for their souls, if that is part of our tradition.  Let us, too, release their pain for the Universe to handle.  It really is none of our business.
Let’s just remember their gifts.




Angels All Around

Angel BowingIt would be trite, I’m sure, to say that there are angels everywhere, no matter how true it is.  Here is a simple story nonetheless.

This morning, feeling overwhelmed by my life and responsibilities, while also feeling that everyone else has their priorities in place and that I’m not really one of them, the pity party began in full force.  As someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, although a mild form of it, every so often, my depression does take hold.  This morning was a prime example of that experience.

This afternoon, a new friend of mine wrote to say how grateful she was to have me as a friend and to be working with me.  She had already offered to help me with a project that, in my current state, I simply couldn’t handle right now. 

This angel lighted upon my shoulder and in doing so, she took a burden off of me that has helped me feel more peaceful.  I am so deeply grateful to my friend for this gift.  Of course, I wrote to her to tell her thank you.  That, too, made me feel good.

I am consistently in awe, too, because these angels, in the masks of humble, loving people, keep finding those of us in greatest need.  Their intuition and desire for healing with others is enormous.  I have such profound respect and love for these wonderful entities.   The funny part is that they never, ever know just how important they are to others. 

As I prayed to God to help lift the weight off my back, he responded in the sweetest way possible.  He sent someone to offer me her hand.  It seems to work that way when I need it most.  I live in constant gratitude for these unexpected gifts. 

I believe in miracles.  They happen every day.

I believe in angels.  They are all around.

I believe in God.  God’s light shines on everything.

I believe in gratitude.  It’s what makes us recognize the value of every gift we receive, even the ones that look like challenges. 

I just wanted to share my experience.  Consider this my Commendation of Perpetual Aid to those who stand by me in love and support.  Today, especially, I extend my gratitude to my new friend.  Thank you, one and all.

What’s Good for the Goose…

There is a dichotomy in these United States of America that is so vividly being presented in the State of Connecticut regarding our freedoms.  In the second of five states in the country to allow gay marriage, there comes a video from the  Manifested Glory Ministries that shows a sixteen-year-old young man having a “homosexual demon” exorcised from his body.

Calvin and Patricia McKinney

Calvin and Patricia McKinney

Prophet Patricia McKinney, and the church overseer and McKinney’s husband, Calvin McKinney, have apparently performed several exorcisms on young people who are attempting to release themselves from the perceived grip of their homosexuality.  The video, as one can imagine, is dynamic in that the young fellow, whose name was withheld, was seen thrashing on the floor, eventually vomitting during the twenty minute, vociferous event.

As revolting as the concept of a “gay exorcism” is to my mind and heart, one question is raised,  “Is the family’s freedom of religion alive enough  to practice their faith as they see fit?” 

If the child’s parents gave the McKinneys permission to perform this rite, the McKinney’s were willing to perform the rite, and if the child himself agreed to experience it, does the family of the parishoner have the right to practice their religion in whatever way they choose, so long as the boy wasn’t injured physically? 

Some might say that the boy should feel free to be gay if that’s what he is.  If that is true, which I believe it is, as well, then shouldn’t he also be allowed to participate in the rites of his church just as freely? 

Concern is correctly expressed that the exorcism will damage his psyche and sense of self because he is not being supported by his community for being who he genuinely is.   We must invite the question as to whether there are other religions who, perhaps not so vehemently, do the same thing to their beloved children.  Families often criticize and shame their offspring because of their sexuality.  Doesn’t that also do horrific damage to the child to have people he or she loves dispense separation, vitriol, and, perhaps, violence against that individual because of the child’s sexuality?

How obscene should it be to us as  a people to wag our fingers at the McKinneys for doing what we do to our own children in other ways? 

“God, I wish my son wasn’t a freakin’ fairy.”

“Jeez, why can’t my daughter just find a nice man with whom to settle down and have a family, instead of that horrible dyke?”

The high horse on which many are riding right now is growing more and more lame.  The pedestal on which many of our fellow Americans would like to believe they sit is cracking under the pressure of our own hypocrisy. 

In this video, there appeared to be a belief that this child harbored a demon named, “homosexuality.”    Isn’t that what many in our country believe?  Those who fight against the equal rights for marriage certainly are making that statement to their children.  Those who sit idly by and watch our junior high students commit suicide because they are being perceived as gay are saying the same thing.

Let’s see things as they are for a change.  We are culturally a bigotted and judgmental people on the whole.   We see ourselves in distinct and separate groups and we like it that way.  The good news is that we are slowly recognizing it and the damage it is causing.  We are changing.  We may even arrive at a place where, for example, in this country, we are all Americans first, instead of insisting on being hyphenates, such as Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, or Straight-Americans.

Change is hard.  Cultural therapy is phenomenally painful and difficult.  We will, however, survive and flourish once we get to the other side.  At that point, we will be able to better see our brothers and sisters as equals in every way. 

What a great day that will be.

What we must not do, though, is lose sight of the fact that for each of our rights, there are those who will show us the extremes of what having them means.  The McKinneys are just those people.  For some, Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen Degeneres would be just those people, as well.  

There must be room for everyone if we want our equality and rights to live in the broadest possible way.

The only exorcism I’d like to see is the banishment of hatred and ignorance.  I’d go to that ritual today!

Both Sides of the Door

InfidelityAs someone who loves history, I have to ask the question, “What exact day was it that it became acceptable to live one way behind closed doors and another in the public arena?”

Those of us who have been around for awhile know the answer to this question:  “It’s always been this way.”  The challenge for many now, however, is that with the burgeoning of worldwide media and our willingness to release the taboos of what we discuss, we are seeing ourselves for who we truly are.

With the most recent revelation that the Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina went to see his mistress, Maria, in Argentina, our news media have glommed onto the storyline that the Republicans have again had to face another scandal.  Interestingly enough, because we are realizing that this is an all too common situation, we are finding excuses to continue reporting it nonetheless.  Specifically, the concern about leaving the state without leadership during his absence has become the hue and cry from reporters. 

That, frankly, is balderdash.  The truth is, we want to skewer and grill this man for his infidelity.  The shame in all of this is not so much that Governor Sanford was unfaithful, it is more that he is reflecting our national values in the open air. 

His wife, First Lady Jenny Sanford, has been dealing with Governor Sanford’s infidelity for quite some time.  Now, she is having to contend with his public apology and the ramifications of having the most deeply personal part of her life discussed by strangers in the media.  It is an intimate matter between the two of them.  Certainly, his indiscretion affects his state; however, on the marital front, it is solely between the Sanfords as a married couple.  It is none of our business.

Since time immemorial, one spouse has been cheating on another spouse.  In some cultures, it was done openly and accepted as part of the general marriage agreement.  In other cultures, it is understood that this would happen, with the sole caveat that the wife should never see or hear about the mistress.  Generally, it is men that have these permissions; however, in some places, it is equally acceptable for men and women to have dalliances with others while married to their spouse.

Our puritanical beginnings here in the United States of America have provided us a rationale to stand in pompous judgment over those who currently choose to be unfaithful.  The ironic part of this is when one of the loudest voices bellowing the chastisements is found to be committing the same disrespect against their spouse. 

Our hypocrisy has risen to a new level of absurdity in this first decade of the twenty-first century.   We are still startled and disquieted by others’ decisions to have intimate relations with people outside of their marriage. 

When are we going to recognize that this is far more common than we are willing to state out loud?  When are we going to accept that fidelity is a voluntary action that not everyone is willing or able to maintain?  What will inspire us to decide that a couple’s decisions behind closed doors regarding what they will or will not accept in the marriage is between the two of them and no one else?

I value monogamy.  I now live monogamously.  That hasn’t always been the case, but it was a choice I made for myself a long time ago.  I do not, however, expect anyone else to live this same way, nor do I judge them as lesser or worse for choosing to live without fidelity in their marriage, so long as both people are aware of what is happening.

My issue comes from the lack of integrity that is being shown and the dismissal of personal responsibility for those around the people who choose to live mendacious lives.  I will not stand before anyone’s Creator to answer for their actions; therefore, I cannot wave my gavel and strike it on their souls based on evaluations rooted in my belief system. 

Governor and First Lady Sanford must choose their own lives as they see fit, as we must all do.  As a people, our only concerns should be the running of the government and the choices we make as individuals and couples.  That’s all.

I propose that we look to our own lives to assess if, first, we are acting in a manner consistent with the beliefs we genuinely espouse, second, we ask ourselves whether our external personæ match our internal veracity, and third, we stand in compassionate support of those who are struggling in these areas.   

If we are doing these three things, then our values and views on the world will be strengthened.  As it stands right now, we are like ravenous vultures looking to pick apart those who have stumbled in their own value system, as we all do from time to time.

Ultimately, it comes down to the  query whether the face we see in the mirror is the same face that is being seen by our brothers and sisters.  If it is, then, I suspect, we are in great shape.  If not, then we must look at ourselves again.

Compassionate understanding should be the real news.  That would certainly shake things up pretty dramatically.

The Poignancy of Passing Time

James in 1959

James in 1959

As I approach my 50th birthday in twenty-four days, my brother is awaiting his second child.  This year my youngest child will be twenty-nine.  My eldest adopted child just turned forty-one.  My birth mother died at the age I’ll be in July.  For some unknown reason, this birthday is a big deal to me.  The others just haven’t been this weighty.

I remember vividly being a young father in some ways.  In others, it seems like a long, long time ago.  With my granddaughter turning sixteen in September and driving a car now, I realize that my days of active, day-to-day parenthood are far behind me in my lifetime’s rear view mirror. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy about where I am.  I’m married to a wonderful man and have a sweet, little dog.  I see my grandchildren every so often and my children call or write to me regularly.  I have no complaints.  My work is good and I am loved.  I have everything a person needs to be truly happy, and fortunately, I am.

The thing is, the poignancy of the passing time is remarkable to me right now.  On that day in March 1976, when my first birth child was born, I never thought I’d get here so fast and so early.  Today, I’m forty-nine years old and I’m at a life place at which most people arrive usually when their fifty-five or sixty-years-old. 

All this hyperbole about fifty being the new thirty is ridiculous to me.  In my life, fifty is the new sixty-five.   That patronizing language is used by people who either didn’t have their first child until they were thirty-five, have pawned their offspring on nannies and boarding schools for them to rear, or don’t have children at all.  For those of us who have walked our children and grandchildren to school, and those of us who have dealt with losing a son to miscarriage and a daughter’s cancer, and those of us whose entire nuclear family of origin has passed away from suicide, pancreatic cancer and the consequences of alcoholism, well, for us, fifty is not the new thirty.   For those of us who have paid attention to the changes and the sameness of last eleven Presidents of the United States, and those of us who have watched everything from the assassination of a beloved president to the hanging of an Iraqi dictator, and for those of us who watched our hair turn gray and our skin develop little spots on our hands, fifty is not the new thirty.

Yes, we’re living longer.  My uncle is 102-years-old, for goodness sake.  Yes, we have more technology and access to information than at any other time in history.  Yes, our country is 233-years-old, and yes, I’ll probably be around another forty years, God willing.

James in 2009

James in 2009

For today, however, I’m looking back and seeing the long road on which I’ve traveled and marvelling that I got this far.  For me, it’s a miracle.  With several great-grandparents who died at thirty-four, a birth father who had multiple bypass heart surgery in his mid-fifties and myself having a heart attack and two strokes, I’m grateful for the journey I’ve had so far and the wonderful people with whom I’ve sojourned.  God knows it could have been very different.

I understand that in the big scheme of things, fifty-years-old isn’t “old,” but it is a milestone, and as I take stock of my life thus far, I am in awe of what has happened in these 18,214 days of my life.  And, yes, my precious and vibrant friends, it is poignant to me.